May 13, 2014 in Nation/World

Wandering wolf may have a mate

Biologist believes pair rearing pups in SW Oregon’s Cascades
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This remote camera photo taken May 3 shows the wolf OR-7 in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.
(Full-size photo)

MEDFORD, Ore. – Oregon’s famous wandering gray wolf, dubbed OR-7, may have found the mate he has trekked thousands of miles looking for, wildlife authorities said Monday. It’s likely the pair spawned pups, and if confirmed, the rare predators would be the first breeding pair of wolves in Oregon’s Cascade Range since the early 1900s.

Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7’s GPS collar shows he has been living.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said it is not proof, but it is likely the two wolves mated over the winter and are rearing pups that would have been born in April. Biologists won’t start looking for a den until June, to avoid endangering the pups.

“It’s amazing that he appears to have found a mate,” Stephenson said. “I didn’t think it would happen. It makes me more impressed with the ability of wolves to survive and find one another.”

Young wolves typically leave their pack and strike out for a new territory, hoping to find a mate and start a new pack.

OR-7 has been looking for a mate since leaving the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon in September 2011. His travels have taken him thousands of miles as he crossed highways, deserts and ranches in Oregon, moved down the spine of the Cascade Range deep into Northern California and then back to Oregon, all without getting shot, having an accident or starving.

Federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves have been lifted in eastern Oregon, where the bulk of them reside, but they remain in force in the Cascades. Protections for the animals have also ended in the last several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed ending the listing across most of the rest of the country as populations have rebounded. A final decision is expected later this year.

If a wolf was going to start a pack in a new part of Oregon, ranchers should be glad it is OR-7, who has no history of preying on livestock, said Bill Hoyt, past president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. The group supports Oregon’s wolf recovery plan.

Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, said the news was “spectacular.” The conservation group won a court ruling barring the state from killing two members of OR-7’s home pack for preying on livestock.

“It goes to show that when we act on America’s best impulses for the environment, amazing things can happen,” he said.

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